Charged with terrorism offences, the court handed down a sentence of 3 years and 1-1/2 month sentence for the evangelical Christian pastor on Friday. Despite the verdict, the court also ruled that the US man would not serve any further time as he had already been detained by authorities since October 2016.
Brunson lawyer: My client is a free man as of now, has already left for home, expect him to go to airport right after, will appeal the conviction. pic.twitter.com/85tHQSPX5I— Erdem Aydın (@eerdemaydin) October 12, 2018
Prior to the judge’s ruling, Brunson told the could that he was “an innocent man” adding: “I love Jesus, I love Turkey.”Reuters reports that Brunson wept as the court’s decision was announced.
Following a failed coup attempt in 2016, the North Carolina native was charged with links to Kurdish militants and supporters of Fethullah Gulen - the man blamed for the attempted coup. Brunson has repeatedly denied the accusations made against him, and his lawyer has commented outside of the Turkish court that his client will appeal his conviction.
His lawyer added that his client - now a free man - has already left for home. It is understood that a private plane awaits for the Brunson at Izmir’s Cigli Airport to whisk him back to the US.
Since his 2016 arrest, Brunson has stood at the centre of a diplomatic row between Turkey and the US, as NATO allies sparred bitterly over the pastor’s imprisonment. Branson’s release could be the first step to mending relations between the two countries.
Brunson’s imprisonment led to U.S. tariffs against Turkey and drawn condemnation from President Donald Trump, who frequently lashed out at Ankara over the US man’s detainment. In the minutes following the judge’s court decision, Trump took to Twitter to declare that he is “working very hard on Pastor Brunson”.
My thoughts and prayers are with Pastor Brunson, and we hope to have him safely back home soon!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 12, 2018
PASTOR BRUNSON JUST RELEASED. WILL BE HOME SOON!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 12, 2018
There has been some reporting in the United States mass media about the deteriorating relationship between Washington and Ankara and what it might mean. Such a falling out between NATO members has not been seen since France left the alliance in 1966 and observers note that the hostility emanating from both sides suggests that far worse is to come as neither party appears prepared to moderate its current position while diplomatic exchanges have been half-hearted and designed to lead nowhere.
Relations between the US and Turkey — a key American ally and home to NATO’s second-largest army — hit a new low on Friday, with the presidents of both countries rhetorically declaring economic war on each other. And over the course of a single day, the Turkish lira lost 17 percent of its value.
President Tayyip Erdogan denied on Saturday that Turkey is in a currency crisis, dismissing a plunge in the lira as ‘fluctuations’ unrelated to the country’s economic fundamentals. Speaking after US President Donald Trump doubled tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminium imports, Erdogan described Friday’s 18 percent fall in the lira to a record low as the “missiles” of an economic war waged against Turkey, Reuters said.
Turkish lawyers are calling for US soldiers at Incirlik Air Base to be arrested, alleging they have ties to the movement behind the 2016 coup attempt. They want the base searched via warrants and flights leaving it to be halted. As the political row between Ankara and Washington intensifies, the attorneys from the pro-government Association for Social Justice and Aid ask for the “arrest of the commanders of the US Air Force who are the superiors of the soldiers based at Incirlik and took a role in the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.”
US Senators have voted to block the sale of F-35s to Turkey, slamming their NATO ally for plans to buy Russian S-400 missile batteries. Ankara warned of “an alternative” should the deal be called off.
In a move that looks suspiciously like retaliation, Turkish police on Wednesday arrested a local employee of the US embassy in Istanbul and charged him with espionage and trying to overthrow the government, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing local media.
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